New law clamps down on illegal towing with maximum fines of $500

DRIVERS celebrate a new law that bars towing companies from bloating charges and providing ample warning to drivers.

Several driver complaints to lawmakers of unlawful towings and exaggerated fees prompted the swift change.

A new law was passed designed to prevent "lurking" tow truck driversCredit: GettyNow, tow truck drivers are required to provide photo evidence if a driver is not warned before being warnedCredit: Getty

Delaware lawmakers answered the pleas of several affected drivers after complaints of heightened towing and storage fees, lack of notification or warning, and lack of signage became regular.

Under the new law, tow truck drivers cannot charge more than $500 for towing and storage, and have towing rates on display in the parking lots they patrol, reported Delaware Public Media.

Additionally, photos of the parking infraction of the sign that displays the rules of the lot that were violated are required in towing jobs that don't involve written warnings.

If a driver sees their vehicle being towed, the drop fee can't be more than half of the towing fee.

Storage facilities must be accessible to affected drivers too, being open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week.

Towing companies will also be expected to provide "reasonable accommodations" for drivers who need to retrieve their vehicles after hours.

While a majority of lawmakers approved of the bill, some thought it was too restrictive in private businesses.

State Representative Rich Collins, for instance, hinted that the new law is signifying the government is meddling.

"We’re going to tell this business that they can only charge $500 no matter what?" he said.

"Folks, this is anti-business, anti-prosperity — this one, I’m talking about this one point."

Delaware's New Towing Law: Relief for Drivers

Echoing his sentiment was Representative Shannon Morris, who worries it may set a precedent and normalize government overreach.

"I'm just kind of concerned we're opening up a can of worms here of government getting into private businesses and private entities and industries," she said.

"Regulating what they can charge or when they have to be open or that they have to make reasonable exceptions to somebody that can't come in from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. if they want to come in at 10 p.m. to pick their stuff up,

"I think the government needs to stay out of this, and I think we're going down the wrong hole."

What to do if your car is towed

Wrongfully or not, retrieving a towed vehicle can be a hassle.

If your vehicle is towed after parking in a "No Parking" zone or other legitimate reason, there are a few steps to take to get it back.

Steps to take when your car is towed:

Try to figure out why your car was towed. Did you not see a posted "No Parking" sign? Did you miss a car payment? Did you return to a lot where you have unpaid citations? Finding the reason can narrow down the phone numbers to dial.
Locate the vehicle. Most states, cities, or counties require towing companies to leave some form of contact information via a posted sign or sent by mail.
Recovery dates and times depend on the company that towed the vehicle, but those times will be posted to the website or can be recited by a representative.
Pay the fees. Be careful to be as prompt as possible, as some tow yards may charge storage fees by the day.

If you feel your vehicle was wrongfully towed, contesting the action can be done with the following steps:

Be prompt - many states have a small window of time where it's acceptable to file a complaint against a company that wrongfully towed the vehicle.
Gather supporting documents: photos, emails, receipts, police reports, and witness statements if applicable. The more evidence, the better.
Get familiar with your local laws, as laws for towing companies vary per state.
Try speaking with the towing company. Sometimes it may have been a simple oversight, and the matter can be resolved quickly.
Contact the Justice of the Peace in your area, as they may have more insight or resources to help. They are often utilized for towing cases.
Talk to a lawyer. Many lawyers have free case consultations, and depending on the case, it may be worth it to utilize a lawyer.

Source: Oregon Department of Justice, National General, Rak Law Firm

Now, the bill sits with the Senate for consideration after passing through the House.

Others say that the bill helps curb tow truck drivers who "patrol" for supposedly illegally parked cars by being legally required to prove the car was parked illegally.

"I still feel very strongly about the legislation and that it’s needed," Representative Ed Osienski told Delaware Online.

"I spoke to a couple tow truck operators, and they say they think it’s needed and recognize some are operating unscrupulously. They feel there needs to be higher standards."


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